Cinderella and the Playboy
by Laura Wright
(Silh. Desire # 1451, $4.25, PG) ISBN 0-373-76451-0
***
Newcomer Laura Wright sticks to a safe and familiar path in her debut romance, Cinderella and the Playboy. If you just can’t get enough of “the boss needs a pretend wife” stories, this may appeal to you.

Hotshot businessman C.K. Tanner wants to buy out Swanson Sweets, a candy company owned by a married couple. Sure they won’t sell to a bachelor, C.K. decides he needs a pretend wife for the weekend. He decides that the quiet young woman who works in his mailroom will be just the ticket.

Abby McGrady teaches community center art classes for kids and dreams of opening her own art school, but she doesn’t have quite enough money yet. When the good-looking boss puts fort h his proposal, she’s indignant at first and refuses. Conveniently, the community center runs out of money at that precise instant and C.K. steps in to save the day. With a catch, of course. He’ll give Abby the space to open her school if she’ll agree to go with him to Wisconsin to meet the Swansons and help him seal the deal.

The tables are turned on Abby and Tanner when they find out they’re dealing with a warmhearted married couple who embody all the good things about a successful marriage. Furthermore, the Swansons aren’t fooled about Abby and Tanner, and set out to help them see how perfect they are for each other.

Abby begins to care for Tanner and he begins to appreciate her humor and goodness. It isn’t long before their forced intimacy becomes real. Then Abby finds that Tanner only wants the candy company so he can turn around and sell it at a big profit. It’s decision time.

Abby is a likable lead, though her tendency to become conveniently clumsy at just the right moment was a bit irritating. She has a goal and a plan to reach it, and best of all, she’s not overawed by Tanner once she spends a bit of time with him. In fact, Abby has a lot to teach Tanner.

And goodness he knows he needs it. Tanner is one of those “I gotta be free” types of heroes who fear commitment because of past losses. It worked for a while, but after Tanner and Abby become close, it felt rather mechanical, as though it was an old habit just waiting to be broken rather than a true belief.

The story is technically well-written, with dialogue that rings true and a nice amount of steam between Abby and Tanner. Abby’s gentleness is a nice foil to Tanner’s polished vulnerability. Their resolution will leave readers feeling satisfied.

Cinderella and the Playboy is a respectable debut for Laura Wright. Hopefully as she gains experience she’ll be more willing to use her talents on something other than a shopworn storyline.

--Cathy Sova


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